A cross, constructed entirely of lightbulbs, shines behind David Oyelowo as he approaches the pulpit of Atlanta’s 145-year-old Wheat Street Baptist Church. It’s a steamy June night, and 500 extras—including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a key architect of the civil rights movement—eagerly await the British-born actor’s first attempt to preach as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But just as director Ava DuVernay puts on her headphones and does a last sound check, a freak lightning storm threatens the safety of the crew and forces the production to shut down.
Delays are nothing new in the long saga of bringing MLK’s life to the big screen. Despite the success of Hollywood movies focused on African-American figures Malcolm X, Ray Charles, and, most recently, Jackie Robinson and James Brown, it took the work of a relatively unknown female director, a British actor, and Oprah Winfrey to make an MLK biopic finally happen. Selma chronicles the Nobel Prize-winning civil rights leader during three intense months in 1965, from the “Bloody Sunday” assault on protesters to the historic march through Alabama that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The film will have an Academy run in December before rolling out nationwide by MLK weekend in January, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the events it depicts. READ FULL STORY